Anyone who has spent any time in the direct sun here or sat in a car for 5 minutes with the A/C off or made the mistake of wearing dark colors when out in the sun knows the power of the Florida sun. Scientists can measure that power and talk about the difference between summer sun and winter sun, but us regular folks can agree that the sun here is powerful. Oh sure, the warmth of the sun can be felt at the north pole too, but here in the Sunshine State, the energy from the sun is powerful and year round.
We warn visitors about it, urging sunscreen use and limited exposure. We cover up babies and children, acknowledging the power of the sun. We’re all advised to get an annual skin check. The sun is a seriously powerful source of energy.
So why is it that as a state we lag behind other states, states with less sun than we have, in the usage of solar power?
Over thirty years ago, I visited a friend near Lakeland. They had a solar powered hot water heater – just about the greenest thing I’d ever seen, sure that I was seeing the future.
Here we are 30 years later and solar power is still as rare as it was back then and that is sad and wasteful. To ignore an energy source as accessible and plentiful as the sun in favor of coal, nuclear and other power sources is just wrong.
In August Floridians approved Amendment 4 providing tax breaks for businesses that install solar panels. Now both residential and business solar panels are eligible for tax breaks. On the November ballot is Amendment 1, another solar amendment. It’s being touted by its sponsors as pro-solar. Some are worried that if Amendment 1 is passed, it will negate those tax breaks because they’ll be seen as non-solar users subsidizing solar power.
It’s not. It’s a deceptive play on Floridians’ desire to increase the use of solar power. What it will do is limit the expansion of solar power and effectively create a system where only utility companies can sell you solar panels and we’re all aware of how interested they are in that.
The only ones who really want Amendment 1 to pass are the utility companies-they want to maintain their stranglehold on energy. Virtually every ‘vote yes’ message has come from utility companies or their backers. You’ve seen and heard their messages. With over $21 million invested in their pro-amendment PAC, they’re betting that they can confuse voters into voting to amend the constitution to regulate solar energy competition under the guise of “protecting” our solar power rights.
We already have the right to use solar panels if we choose. They want voters to think this amendment will grant residents that right, though they already have it.
The fine print of this amendment prohibits those who don’t use solar from subsidizing those who do. Opponents of the amendment say this will allow utilities to abandon ‘net metering’ where a location that produces more solar power than it needs, passes that power back to the power company for credit on the traditional power they do use.
The amendment barely made it past the Florida Supreme Court’s scrutiny. The court’s job is to decide if an amendment’s ballot language is unambiguous – does it say what it means? This one squeaked past with a 4-3 vote.
Writing in dissent, Justice Barbara Pariente warned, “Let the pro-solar consumers beware. Masquerading as a pro-solar-energy initiative, this proposed constitutional amendment, supported by some of Florida’s major investor-owned-electric utility companies, actually seeks to constitutionalize the status quo.”
Companies that sell solar panels urge voters to vote NO. If this amendment were good for the expansion of solar, they’d be first in line supporting it. They don’t.
Recently the Miami Herald revealed a recorded statement made by a James Madison Institute (JMI) executive at a utility industry conference confirming that the amendment was meant to confuse voters by “using the language of promoting solar” to essentially suppress solar power in Florida. The utility-backed super PAC Consumers for Smart Solar denied hiring JMI, for this issue.
If Amendment 1 passes, our choices for solar power will become fewer and much more expensive. Utility companies will control the solar market, so don’t expect to see any affordable solar options that result in you paying less money to the utility company each month.
Most importantly, the sponsors of Amendment 1 are banking on voters not paying attention. They think voters will read “solar” and assume it’s a good idea and vote yes. How many voters pay attention to the long amendments on their ballot anyway?
I hope Florida voters surprise those that are trying to sneak an anti-solar amendment past them as a pro-solar amendment and vote NO.
Don’t be fooled, vote NO on Amendment 1!